Spitzer Calls on MTA to Retain $2 Base Fare

Governor Eliot Spitzer has "directed" the MTA to keep the base fare for subway and bus rides at $2. City Room reports, however, that Spitzer held out the possibility for increases in unlimited ride card rates at a press conference held this morning.

Eliot_Spitzer.jpgMr. Spitzer said it was possible to keep the base fare at $2 through 2009 — and avoid an increase to $2.25, as the authority proposed for early next year — because the authority had suddenly identified an additional $220 million in unforeseen revenue. The $220 million includes, Mr. Spitzer said, $60 million from increased ridership, $60 million from higher-than-anticipated real estate tax revenues, $60 million in savings and $40 million in lower-than-expected debt service costs.

“We have come to the conclusion that the entirety of that $220 million should be used to mitigate any need for a fare increase,” Mr. Spitzer said in a morning news conference at his Midtown office. But he quickly made it clear that he was referring only to the base fare.

In reality, only a small fraction of riders pay the full $2 fare. Most commuters buy the 7-day or 30-day unlimited-ride MetroCards, and many tourists use the one-day FunPass. The chief executive of the authority, Elliot G. Sander, said that its financial staff needed to do a new set of calculations to determine how the cost of unlimited-rides cards — along with commuter rail fares and bridge and tunnel tolls — would change under the plan.

But Mr. Spitzer said he expected that any increases on those fares and tolls would be “significantly reduced” from what the authority had originally envisioned.

So, as City Room commenters have pointed out, while one-shot fares -- largely paid by out-of-towners -- should remain the same for the time being, regular transit customers could still see an increase, albeit a "significantly reduced" one.

And again, it appears that neither Spitzer nor MTA chief Lee Sander took the opportunity to cite congestion pricing as a boon to the city's transit system.